Saxon Steed

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Bronze statue of the Saxon Steed in front of the main building of Hanover University, Hanover, Germany. Niedersachsenross 2005-03-10 00.jpeg
Bronze statue of the Saxon Steed in front of the main building of Hanover University, Hanover, Germany.

The Saxon Steed (German: Sachsenross, Niedersachsenross, Welfenross, Westfalenpferd; Dutch : Twentse Ros / Saksische ros/paard; Low Saxon: Witte Peerd) is a heraldic motif associated with Lower Saxony and Westphalia.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 23 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Lower Saxony State in Germany

Lower Saxony is a German state (Land) situated in northwestern Germany. It is the second-largest state by land area, with 47,624 km2 (18,388 sq mi), and fourth-largest in population among the 16 Länder federated as the Federal Republic of Germany. In rural areas, Northern Low Saxon and Saterland Frisian are still spoken, but the number of speakers is declining.

Westphalia State part and historic region of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany

Westphalia is a region in northwestern Germany and one of the three historic parts of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It has an area of 20,208 km2 (7,802 sq mi) and 7.9 million inhabitants.


Origin and past uses

The horse as a heraldic charge associated with Saxony first appears in the late 14th century, at which time it was described as an "old Saxon" motif.[ citation needed ] For this reason, there has been a long history of antiquarian speculation[ by whom? ] identifying the motif as a tribal symbol of the ancient Saxons.[ citation needed ]

Saxons confederation of Germanic tribes on the North German Plain

The Saxons were a Germanic people whose name was given in the early Middle Ages to a large country near the North Sea coast of what is now Germany. Earlier, in the late Roman Empire, the name was used to refer to Germanic inhabitants of what is now England, and also as a word something like the later "Viking", as a term for raiders. In Merovingian times, continental Saxons were associated with the coast of what later became Normandy. Though sometimes described as also fighting inland, coming in conflict with the Franks and Thuringians, no clear homeland can be defined. There is possibly a single classical reference to a smaller homeland of an early Saxon tribe, but it is disputed. According to this proposal, the Saxons' earliest area of settlement is believed to have been Northern Albingia. This general area is close to the probable homeland of the Angles.

A tradition first recorded in 1492 reports that the 8th-century Saxon ruler Widukind displayed a black horse as his field sign. [1]

Widukind Duke of Saxony

Widukind, also known as Widuking or Wittekind, was a leader of the Saxons and the chief opponent of the Frankish king Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars from 777 to 785. Charlemagne ultimately prevailed, organized Saxony as a Frankish province, massacred thousands of Saxon nobles, and ordered conversions of the pagan Saxons to Roman Catholicism. In later times, Widukind became a symbol of Saxon independence and a figure of legend; the Codex Wittekindeus is said to have been owned by him.

The horse motif was adopted by the House of Welf, whose original symbol was a golden lion on red ground. It has also been used in several provinces in Westphalia (therefore, it is also called Westfalenross, meaning "Westphalian steed", or Welfenross, meaning "Welf steed"). After this, it became the heraldic animal of the Kingdom of Hanover (since 1866 the Prussian Province of Hanover), of the Prussian Province of Westphalia and since 1922 of the Free State of Brunswick. This tradition continues in two modern federal States of Germany: Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia.

House of Welf noble family

The House of Welf is a European dynasty that has included many German and British monarchs from the 11th to 20th century and Emperor Ivan VI of Russia in the 18th century.

Kingdom of Hanover German kingdom established in 1814

The Kingdom of Hanover was established in October 1814 by the Congress of Vienna, with the restoration of George III to his Hanoverian territories after the Napoleonic era. It succeeded the former Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and joined 38 other sovereign states in the German Confederation in June 1815. The kingdom was ruled by the House of Hanover, a cadet branch of the House of Welf, in personal union with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until 1837. Since its monarch resided in London, a viceroy handled the administration of the Kingdom of Hanover.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Province of Hanover Prussian province

The Province of Hanover was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia from 1868 to 1946.

Province of Westphalia province of the Kingdom of Prussia

The Province of Westphalia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia from 1815 to 1946.

Free State of Brunswick federated state

The Free State of Brunswick was a state of the German Reich in the time of the Weimar Republic. It was formed after the abolition of the Duchy of Brunswick in the course of the German Revolution of 1918–19. Its capital was Braunschweig (Brunswick).

Modern uses

The white horse is similar to the one used in the coat of arms for the county of Kent in England, which is likely to have originated in the Rhineland area.

White horse of Kent

The white horse of Kent or the white horse rampant is a symbol of Kent, a county in south-east England.

Kent County of England

Kent is a county in South East England and one of the home counties. It borders Greater London to the north west, Surrey to the west and East Sussex to the south west. The county also shares borders with Essex along the estuary of the River Thames, and with the French department of Pas-de-Calais through the Channel Tunnel. The county town is Maidstone.

The coat of arms of the German state of Lower Saxony shows a white Saxon steed (Sachsenross) on a red background.

The steed became the coat of arms of the Province of Hanover as a province of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866 after it had been in use for the Duchy of Brunswick and the Kingdom of Hanover since 1814. It appears on some of their 19th Century coins and postage stamps. It was even in use after the abolition of German monarchy after World War I until 1935, when state flags were prohibited by the Nazis and only the flag of Nazi Germany was to be used.

Coat of arms of Lower Saxony

Coat of arms of Lower Saxony Coat of arms of Lower Saxony.svg
Coat of arms of Lower Saxony

After World War II, the Province of Hanover became an independent state on 23 August 1946, and used the steed as its coat of arms again. Brunswick, which was also an independent state, had made the same decision some weeks before, on 8 July 1946. When these two states, along with Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe, were merged into the new state of Lower Saxony, the Saxon steed became the unofficial coat of arms of the new state, and later the official one.

Coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia

Coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia. Coat of arms of North Rhine-Westfalia.svg
Coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Saxon steed is also shown in one of the three sections of the coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia, particularly associated with the area of Westphalia.

British royal arms

Royal banner of arms (Hanoverian) Royal Standard of the United Kingdom (1816-1837).svg
Royal banner of arms (Hanoverian)

In 1714 the House of Hanover became united in personal union with the United Kingdom. As a result, the Saxon Steed is found in the British royal arms during the Hanoverian period.

Official sign of Dutch Twente region

Flag of Twente Flag of Twente.svg
Flag of Twente
Football club FC Twente's banner and logo FC Twente Assemblage.jpg
Football club FC Twente's banner and logo

To express the Saxon heritage of the Twente region, local language and culture enthusiast J.J. van Deinse designed a common flag in the 1920s. The region borders on both the German states of Lower Saxony and North-Rhine-Westphalia. The local language, Tweants, is commonly classified as an extension of the Westphalian branche of the Low Saxon language. Within the Netherlands, it is known to be one of the more traditional (or conservative) varieties of the language.

Due to growing interests and pride in local culture, the Saxon steed has become a popular image. It can be found in varying formats and appearances, as well as to various degrees of stylisation in the likes of local football club FC Twente's logo, the local branch (Twents) of a Dutch public transport provider, and a growing range of other instances.

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Coat of arms of Lower Saxony cout of arms

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Coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia coat of arms

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  1. Cronecken der sassen. Mainz 1492, .

See also